Durbin visits NIU to talk with Dreamers

Senator Dick Durbin meeting with NIU administrators and students of Dream Action NIU in Altgeld Hall on March 27, 2018.

Senator Dick Durbin sat down Tuesday with leaders from DREAM Action NIU to update them on efforts to protect DACA recipients. While the information was complex, his message was simple: Don’t give up.

In a 30-minute session at Altgeld Hall, the Illinois Senator, who was the main architect of the Dream Act, met with DREAM Action NIU Co-Presidents Laura Vivaldo Cholula and Yeon Woo Kim, as well as the organization’s Community Outreach Chair Pablo Valencia. Durbin discussed the recent history of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided protection from deportation for individuals brought to America as children by parents who entered the country without inspection.

Barack Obama signed DACA into being as an executive order, but Donald Trump rescinded that order in September. The program officially ended March 5, but federal judges have ordered the administration to keep accepting DACA renewal applications while the courts weigh legal challenges over how the program was ended. Without DACA protections, an estimated 800,000 Dreamers could ultimately face deportation to countries and cultures that they may barely know.

In the meantime, Durbin continues to lead the fight to not just extend DACA, but also to provide a more permanent solution for Dreamers. “We can’t give up,” he told the students and a group of administrators gathered Tuesday. “This is a battle that we are committed to. It is going to work out.”

A student shares a picture on the phone with Senator Durbin.  The picture was from when she met the Senator for the first time – 17 years ago, when she was a toddler.

Durbin said that the most powerful contribution the students can make at this point is to continue telling their story to anyone who will listen. Allowing people to get to know them, and learning about how this would affect their lives, is the best way to change minds.

That is something that Dream Action is very good at, said Sandy López – Assistant to the Director Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and one of the advisors for DREAM Action NIU. In the past year alone, the group has held more than 30 training sessions for faculty, staff and students at NIU, at high schools, at community colleges and to mental health counselors and others across the region.

“It can be difficult being told, ‘Just keep doing what you have been doing,’ but Senator Durbin is 100 percent right about the value of humanizing the issue,” said López, who noted that the organization is scheduled to give another training session soon, this one at Kishwaukee College.

Also attending the meeting with Durbin were NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman, Director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies Christina D. Abreu, Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden , Director of the Asian American Resource Center Michelle Bringas, and Director of the Latino Resource Center Luis Santos Rivas.

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